Scott Rosenberg’s 10 myths about blogging

Scott Rosenberg – co-founder of Salon.com and author of Say Everything: how blogging began, what its becoming and why it matters – sums up a lot about blogging in this five minute video.

 

This is an example of a simple video bookmark post – my links to Rosenberg’s blog and his book homepage provide pathways to a lot of information, so while the post is short and simple it provides value for the reader. In blog posts try to more with less.

Advertisements

The Guardian chimes in on Rich’s death

The Guardian has been late to the party with coverage of Adrianne Rich’s death. Their story today largely summarises and links to other reports but ends with this great quote from Rich:

In 2006, Rich wrote in the Guardian that “poetry has the capacity to remind us of something we are forbidden to see. A forgotten future: a still uncreated site whose moral architecture is founded not on ownership and dispossession, the subjection of women, outcast and tribe, but on the continuous redefining of freedom – that word now held under house arrest by the rhetoric of the ‘free’ market.”

This is an example of a bookmark post, because I have already covered Rich’s death in several posts – simple comparative comment style, analytic style, and simple follow-up style – I just bookmark this new article with a short quote and very little commentary.  

Editing your blog posts

Good clear writing, that follows the standard rules of grammar and uses correct punctuation and spelling, is just as important in blog posts as it is anywhere else. That’s why editing your posts is critical.

We all edit as we write but a final edit is important. I find it easier to do the final edit once the post is published rather than trying to do it in the cramped editing screen in the wordpress dashboard. So after I complete my post I open two browser windows. In the first I have my newly completed, and published blog post, in the other window I open the blog dashboard and go back to the post’s edit screen. As I am reading through the post I can then move between the published post, which provides a cleanly published version that makes picking up mistakes easier, and the edit window in the dashboard where I can immediately make corrections. Once I have finished all the corrections I click update in the dashboard screen and all my changes are saved and a new version of my edited post is published.

Do remember to click “update”, which is on the left hand side of the edit screen, otherwise none of your changes will be saved. It’s also a good idea to check the published post to make sure all of the changes have gone through.

Audio adds an emotional tone

In my last post on the way different new and legacy media responded to Adrienne Rich’s death I mentioned the use of YouTube video but I din’t mention the role of radio reports. One very fine report on Rich’s death came from NPR. NPR is a great example of a web integrated radio network and they initially reported Rich’s death with an AAP story on their website. But note in the screenshot above the link in the bottom left to an audio report on Rich’s death from their regular news and current affairs show: “All Things Considered”

The short report covers much of the same material covered in the print reports but puts in the conversational style of radio. the host Melissa Block and her guest, poet and critic Linda Gregerson discuss Rich’s life and influence. The initial question and response sets the tone:

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: The writer Adrienne Rich has died after a long illness. She was 82. Rich is best known for her poetry, which mirrored the times in which she wrote. Her work grew increasingly political during the 1960s and ’70s, and she was a touchstone for the feminist movement. Joining me to talk to about Rich’s work is the poet and critic Linda Gregerson. And Linda, I wonder what the experience is for you of reading an Adrienne Rich poem. How would you describe it?

LINDA GREGERSON: Well, I remember when I first encountered Adrienne’s work and it was when I was a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the fierceness of her intelligence and the power of her anger, her willingness to speak it directly, was really an amazing revelation, I think, for many of us. And this would’ve been in the mid-’70s that I first really got to know her work. And she’s been a stirring and necessary and really life-changing figure for many, many in the world of American poetry, not just women poets.

Block asks her guest for an emotional reaction about her “experience” of reading Rich. This is typically one of the strengths of radio it is where the emotional tone of personalised journalism comes into its own, it puts the facts in a personal conversational framework that is developed between the interviewer and guest and as listeners we often have the sense of listening to a “live” investigation of a subject where two people share discoveries as they talk.

NPR continued to develop their reporting with a more detailed follow-up piece the next day.

This post is a short specific follow-up post to my previous analysis of different styles of media reporting on Rich’s death. I could have included this element in my original post but I felt the post was already getting too long so I decided to do it as a stand alone short follow-up post. Always ask your self the question what should be included in a post and what can stand alone as a short follow-up post. This is particularly important if your post is creeping past the 400 word mark. Try to keep most posts at around 350 – 500 words or shorter.

Did you hear about Adrienne Rich?

I first heard about the death of feminist poet Adrienne Rich on twitter through the feed of cultural aggregation site Flavorwire:

The way that Rich’s death broke tells us some interesting things about the way news circulates in the new online news ecology.

The Flavorpill tweet took me to a brief in their books blog which sourced the news to a brief in the LA Times book blog, Jacket Copy. The purpose of both these posts was as an initial marker of the story. The LA Times report was a short, straight, summary report of her significant achievements with a note about some of the controversial elements such as her refusal of President Clinton’s offer of a major award. It noted that a full appreciation would follow in the La Times obit section. Flavorpill also provided a short summary of her life but significantly they added one other element:

Since the news broke, fans have been tweeting her poem “For the Dead,” which seems as fitting a way to remember this remarkable and iconoclastic writer as any.

Here Flavorfill both noted the reaction in the social media world as well as linked to an online version of one of Rich’s poems. When I first read the reports I tweeted a very simple announcement:

I then used part of her poem “For the dead” to tweet again, a more emotional response to her passing

This tweet was picked up by one of my followers and retweeted to her followers:

Both Flavorwire and Jacket Copy produced short reports to ensure that they quickly posted the significant news of Rich’s death and both publications followed up later with more extensive appreciations. Their follow-up articles reflect their relative purposes and styles. The La Times official obituary is one of the most detailed pieces on the her death and is written in the traditional obituary style which seeks to respectfully sum up a life. Flavorfill is a blog about culture which seeks to link to interesting events and tends on the web, they produced a guide to “The essential Adrienne Rich” which provided short introductions to six of her most significant books.

Interestingly the New York Times arts blog, Culture Beat, also took this approach, they were a bit later than the LA Times blog, but they produced a more detailed set of links to the Times reviews of some of Rich’s significant works. This points to the different ways that blogs are used in tandem with traditional articles by mainstream media organisations. While the LA Times used it’s blog to quickly bookmark a significant event, the New York Time’s used its blog as a window into its archive of stories on Rich’s life and career. Both followed up with long, detailed, traditional obits.

Rich was a beloved figure in the feminist movement and so it is not surprising that many women have blogged about her death and this shows how news circulates in specific ways within subcultures on the web. One of the first blog posts I read showed up in a general google news search I did as soon as I read of her passing:

Like many women of my generation I read Of Woman Born in college. Though having children was the last thing on my mind back in the 1990s, I was oddly relieved to find a feminist writing about motherhood. This was not a hot topic in the feminism of my youth. Motherhood was almost too messy and complicated to deal with. Mostly it just wasn’t brought up. We could take back the night. We could break the glass ceiling but how could we possibly talk about making babies in a positive way? Weren’t we trying to escape this role? Flee our wretched biology? Not be defined by our wombs? Or tits and asses? Our parts?

I will always be grateful to Adrienne Rich for going into that messy topic and making me feel and understand things I needed to feel and understand about my body and my . “Not biology,” she once wrote, “but ignorance of ourselves, has been the key to our powerlessness.”

This post by “Ceridwen” (a blogger I had never read before) is on a blog devoted to Pregnancy and brings a personal reflective tone to the appreciations of Rich’s life and influence. Ceridwen is not constrained by the conventions of traditional news reporting and simply ends her post with a series of some of her favourite Rich quotes.

The women’s blogging community BlogHer also quickly covered Rich’s death with a post from their executive editor Julie Ros Godar. Godar’s post links to the LA Times initial blog report and therefore does not repeat much basic information about Rich. This is for two reasons, Godar might assume that her community of women readers might already know the basic Rich story and if not she assume’s they can follow the link.  This embodies Jeff Jarvis’s basic motto of web writing “Do what you do bets and link to the rest”. What Godar does supply, that is missing in other reports, are links to YouTube videos of Rich reading her own poems and this shows blogging’s propensity to use multimedia content. The voice of a poet is incredibly important and this is an excellent use of the YouTube archive and I am surprised more sites did not do this.

 

Note how in this post I have tackled a very specific subject: the way different media – particular social media and blogs – covered Rich’s death and the way this influenced the circulation of this news. This is a very different and much more analytic post to my initial example (note here how I link back to my own previous post) which merely linked to a few different reports. The only significant comment of my own in the initial report was noting the way the non-US Irish Times report was more forthright in naming Rich’s “socialist” politics. Both these styles are OK in the mix of posts on an academic blog but this more analytic post is a more significant contribution because it has an originally developed argument.  It is also a good example of using multiple different media in a post from embedded tweets to video. See this post on how to embed tweets into your posts.

Adrienne Rich and the fierce politics of poetry

"I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair streams black"....Adrienne Rich in 1987 Image: Neal Boenzi/The New York Times

The tributes are pouring in for Adrienne Rich who died today aged 82. The New York Times called her a ” a poet of towering reputation and towering rage ” and notes that she was triply marginalised as a woman, a lesbian and a Jew. This did not stop her:

Ms. Rich was far too seasoned a campaigner to think that verse alone could change entrenched social institutions. “Poetry is not a healing lotion, an emotional massage, a kind of linguistic aromatherapy,” she said in an acceptance speech to the National Book Foundation in 2006, on receiving its medal for distinguished contribution to American letters. “Neither is it a blueprint, nor an instruction manual, nor a billboard.”

But at the same time, as she made resoundingly clear in interviews, in public lectures and in her work, Ms. Rich saw poetry as a keen-edged beacon by which women’s lives — and women’s consciousness — could be illuminated.

All the obituaries highlight her politics and the fact that she refused to accept the National Medal of Arts in 1997 saying that she was dismayed that  the government had chosen to honor “a few token artists while the people at large are so dishonored.”

Unlike the American obits the Irish Times makes her politics explicit noting that she considered herself a socialist:

Unlike most American writers, Rich believed that art and politics not only could co-exist, but must co-exist. She considered herself a socialist because “socialism represents moral value – the dignity and human rights of all citizens,” she said in 2005. “That is, the resources of a society should be shared and the wealth redistributed as widely as possible.”

“She was very courageous and very outspoken and very clear,” said her long-time friend, WS Merwin, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet. “She was a real original, and whatever she said came straight out of herself.”

The New York Times Arts beat blog has collected a series links to of reviews of her books. Margaret Atwood’s review of her prize winning 1973 collection is telling:

In 1973, reviewing Adrienne Rich’s seventh book of poems, “Diving Into the Wreck,” Margaret Atwood called it “one of those rare books that forces you to decide not just what you think about it; but what you think about yourself. It is a book that takes risks, and it forces the reader to take them also.”

The LA Times were one of the first to report her death in their book blog Jacket copy and now have one of the most detailed appreciations in their obits section.

This is an example of a comparative post pulling together several linked articles from a series of different sources and highlighting their differences and similarities. Note the use of links followed by short indented quotes.

To understand the differences in posting styles see my more analytic post on Rich’s death and the way different media responded and the follow-up post on the contribution of radio. 

Note: the para above was added after the original post was completed after I completed the next two posts – sometimes it is a good idea to revisit earlier posts and add in links to updates if you follow up this topic in future posts. This is because readers will “land” in your blogs in all sorts of ways from all sorts of searches and links and you need to create a circulation system that navigates them back and forth through your work.

Get your first blog post right

There are over 70 million wordpress blogs...make your's stand out

There are over 70 million wordpress blogs...make your's stand out

Make your first post count. Jump right into your topic, don’t wast time with wordy preliminaries like: “This is my first post”.

Choose a topic that is central to your project and something that can both set the tone and style for your blog.

Also demonstrate the. full suite of blogging tools:

  • Include an image or video,
  • make sure you have some links,
  • include an indented quote and
  • categorise your post.

Mindy McAdams recently blogged some useful tips for student bloggers. Ultimately it’s a question of practice:

Too many students write blog posts just to get the assignment out of the way — the poor quality of the blog post reveals that plainly. No future employer is going to be impressed by that kind of writing.

McAdams links to five pointers drawn up by George Daniels that are well worth reading. McAdam’s and Daniels agree that a good blog post is short (350-500 words) has a punchy opener, is written with an audience in mind, includes images or other elements apart from text and links to other resources that add value for your readers.